“Gentle of manners and strong on enforcement, Ateneo-educated lawyer BenHur was one of the shining stars of the Duterte Cabinet. He was one of the best city mayors in the Philippines”
Long-time Mandaluyong Mayor BenHur Abalos built a Tiger City. Now, as the secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), he needs to be a tiger to oversee 1,710 local government units and discipline 225,000 policemen.
In terms of budget allocation, the DILG is the fourth richest in the Cabinet with P251.3 billion, after Education (P788.5 billion), Public Works and Highways (P786.6 billion), and Health (P268.4 billion).
With powerful governors and mayors and wayward policemen DILG is the most difficult to manage among the 22 regular cabinet departments.
Because of the Supreme Court’s Mandanas ruling, the LGUs are suddenly awash with cash, making their head less susceptible to temptation from Malacañang.
In 2018, the SC ruled that the just share of LGUs from the national taxes is not limited to “national internal revenue taxes” collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue but includes collections (customs duties) of the Bureau of Customs, and other tax collecting agencies.
With the expected increase in the just shares of LGUs, they will be better equipped to assume responsibility for the delivery of devolved services as prescribed under Section 17 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act 7160) and other pertinent laws.
Gentle of manners and strong on enforcement, Ateneo-educated lawyer BenHur was one of the shining stars of the Duterte Cabinet. He was one of the best city mayors in the Philippines.
BenHur was the general campaign manager of former Senator Bongbong Marcos Jr. for the 2022 presidential election.
As chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), from January October 2021, he made Metro Manila the first among the country’s 17 regions to achieve herd immunity from the pandemic thru an ambitious launch of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
The achievement led to a vigorous recovery of the economy as consumers went on revenge to go out, dine, shop, or simply seek the pleasures of outdoor life.
MMDA manages the planning, development, traffic, flood control, health and sanitation, and safety needs of 14 million residents of Metro Manila, the Philippines’ largest and richest metropolis. NCR has 32 percent share of annual economic production or GDP.
Things go right when management is in capable hands and decision-making is bold and disruptive.
BenHur needs plenty of those at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the cabinet department that oversees 81 provincial governors, 141 cities, and 1,488 municipalities and the 225,000-strong Philippine National Police.
The LGUs are rich. Under a Supreme Court ruling, LGUs must get a 40 percent of ALL internal revenue taxes collected by the national government or IRA. The ruling can deplete national government coffers rendering the state ineffective.
On the other hand, the PNP needs discipline. It is overwhelmed with scalawags, at least two percent of the total force.
That is at least 4,500 criminals running around the archipelago, licensed to carry firearms and licensed to kill, to achieve their evil deeds. Often, citizens cannot distinguish the criminal from the one wearing uniform. They both wear uniform.
As mayor of Mandaluyong (the Tiger City) for five terms or 15 years (1998-2004, 2007-2016), BenHur modernized what was once a bedroom community and squatter hub, solved its squatter and poverty problems, and made it one of the most dynamic and vibrant, business friendly, child friendly, pro-environment, and people-centered cities in the country, rivalling the business district of Makati, across the river, without the latter’s skyscrapers and coat-and-tie culture.
BenHur has 40 awards, international (including the UN and the World Bank) and local, for his outstanding work as city mayor.
A pioneering Project TEACH that extends free services and intervention for indigent children with special needs won the United Nations Public Service Award in 2015, given in Medellin, Colombia.
UN described Project TEACH as some of the “best examples of effective public governance”, globally.
In his second term as mayor, Abalos set records—as president of two powerful national organizations: the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) and the League of Cities of the Philippines of 122 city mayors.
ULAP groups all 1.2 million elected/appointed LGU officials under their umbrella organizations (League of Governors, League of Vice Governors, Board Members, City Mayors, Municipal Mayors, Vice Mayors, Councilors, and Sangguniang Kabataan, including their nurses’ and midwives’ organizations).
BenHur was the first mayor to hold the presidency of these two prestigious organizations concurrently. His term in ULAP was also the first time a mayor had headed ULAP, which had traditionally been headed by a governor.
Abalos was also city councilor (1995-1998) and (congressman for one term (2004-2007). His wife, Menchie, is the incumbent Mandaluyong hizzoner. Their daughter Charisse and son Benjamin III are city councilors. BenHur made the word dynasty politically correct and good for the people.
BenHur is the son of Benjamin Abalos Sr., a former chairman of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and of the MMDA (2001-2002). The elder Abalos is newly elected Mandaluyong chairman. BenHur’s wife, Menchie, is vice mayor of NCR’s Tiger City.